The video below is available with closed captioning on YouTube
There are continuing questions about what exactly happened in Benghazi on that night three weeks ago. And we will not rest until we answer those questions and until we track down the terrorists who killed our people. Active efforts are also underway to determine who was responsible and bring them to justice.
We have already formed an Accountability Review Board to examine this attack and to explore how we can prevent anything like this from happening in the future. The board is beginning its work this week under the leadership of Ambassador Thomas Pickering. The board’s mandate is to determine whether our security systems and procedures in Benghazi were appropriate in light of the threat environment, whether those systems and procedures were properly implemented, and any lessons that may be relevant to our work around the world.
The men and women who serve this country as diplomats deserve no less than a full and accurate accounting, wherever that leads. And I am committed to seeking that for them and for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation.
No one wants to determine what happened that night in Benghazi more than the President and I do. No one is more committed to ensuring it doesn’t happen again. And nobody will hold this Department more accountable than we hold ourselves, because we served with and we knew the four men we lost. They are not just names or profiles to us. They are our colleagues and our friends.
In our initial reviews over the past two weeks, we have worked closely with other agencies, and we have learned a number of things. We will continue to learn more in the days to come. We are committed to a process that is as transparent as possible while balancing the needs of the investigations underway. It will take time before we have a complete understanding of what actually did happen. But still, I am asking the board to move as quickly as possible without sacrificing diligence and accuracy. In the interim, we will continue to provide as much accurate information as we can to the public and to the Congress.
As I’ve been saying for four years, our diplomats and development experts are on the front lines, just like our troops. And the entire United States Government needs to work together to protect them. We will not retreat. We will keep leading, and we will stay engaged everywhere in the world, including in those hard places where America’s interests and security are at stake. That is the best way to honor those whom we have lost.
Now let me say again what a pleasure it is to welcome Foreign Minister Idrissov here to Washington in his new capacity. He served here for five years as Kazakhstan’s Ambassador, so we already know him as a friend and partner. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Foreign Minister for Kazakhstan’s strong statements in support of the United States and the duty to protect diplomats following the Benghazi attack.
Today we discussed the many ways our nations are enhancing our cooperation through our Strategic Partnership Dialogue. As a critical link in the Northern Distribution Network, Kazakhstan is part of our efforts to supply and support our troops in Afghanistan. And Kazakhstan is looking forward to a future of greater regional cooperation and economic integration after the security transition ends in 2014. They have pledged to support the Afghan National Security Forces. They are focusing on infrastructure projects and training Afghan officials.
Kazakhstan has also embraced the Vision for a New Silk Road that will strengthen the region’s economic ties, where goods and people can move freely throughout the region. I thanked the Minister for everything that Kazakhstan is doing to promote stability and prosperity in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
We discussed Kazakhstan’s program of economic and democratic reforms at home. Kazakhstan is working to strengthen its institutions, including its newly elected parliament. And I assured the Foreign Minister that the United States will continue to support this path toward becoming a modern democracy.
At the same time, I did express the importance of continuing to strengthen space for the development of civil society. A strong civil society is essential to an effective democracy, and we urge that all human rights be protected. In this regard, I did express concern over a new religion law, and made the point that its implementation should not restrict the right of people to worship peacefully.
Finally, we talked about our partnership on nuclear nonproliferation, disarmament, and security. I thanked the Foreign Minister for Kazakhstan’s work with the IAEA to establish an international nuclear fuel bank. And we discussed our shared commitment to seeing Iran come into full compliance with its UN Security Council and Nonproliferation Treaty obligations.
Our nations have enjoyed more than 20 years of diplomatic relations. And as we enter this third decade of partnership, I look forward to seeing new ways and new opportunities for our countries to work together.
Thank you so much, Minister.
FOREIGN MINISTER IDRISSOV: Thank you, Madam Secretary, for your kind words. I’m really happy to see friends in the room. Jill, we had the tradition of having breakfast together, and I think it’s my turn now, and I invite you to Kazakhstan for the next breakfast we have.
Madam Secretary, dear friends, it’s a lucky coincidence for me to have the opportunity to end my five year tour in Washington, DC, and to start my new job as Foreign Minister for Kazakhstan by having a meeting with an outstanding statesman, outstanding diplomat, Secretary Clinton. I’m not yet seasoned as she is. Therefore my statement will be very brief. Over the years of Kazakhstan’s young independence, our nations have built a relationship which is robust, dynamic, and broad, covering vast areas ranging from nuclear nonproliferation to energy partnership, nation building, and regional security.
I will try to do my best to make sure that our relations go from strength to strength to the benefit of our nations, our region, and the entire world.
Thank you, Madam Secretary.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much.
FOREIGN MINISTER IDRISSOV: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: We’ll take three questions today. Let’s start with CBS. Margaret Brennan, please.
QUESTION: Thank you. Madam Secretary, were their multiple requests for increased security in Tripoli and Benghazi, and can you address whether Washington or your office rejected those requests?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me start by cautioning everyone against seizing on any single statement or piece of information to draw final conclusions. It’s essential that we go through all of the information and the entire context so that we can get a full and complete accurate understanding of what happened. I take this responsibility very seriously, and I believe that our diplomats, our leaders, and the American people deserve a rigorous, serious, careful process.
Now, we are already working with Congress and the relevant committees, and we will continue to respond to questions and requests in a cooperative way. As a former member of Congress, I deeply understand as well as anyone the important role that Congress is playing and should play in this effort. I am aware, too, that many people are eager for answers. So am I, Margaret, and no one wants the answers more than we do here at the Department. And now based on the reviews so far, we’re developing a better understanding of what happened, but we have a lot of work to do to give complete and accurate responses to all the questions and statements that are swirling out there.
So we have to keep working through lots of documents and talking to scores of individuals before we have a definitive accounting. Over the course of this review, there will naturally be a number of statements made, some of which will be borne out, and some of which will not. So let’s establish all the facts before we jump to any conclusions, and let’s do so so that we can get to the bottom of what did happen.
So I’m asking the board to move as quickly as possible without sacrificing accuracy. In the interim, we will provide as much accurate information to the Congress and the public along the way. I think it’s really very important for us to do this in a rigorous, careful way, because I have observed over the course of many years, as a lawyer, as someone in public life, that at the beginning of any kind of inquiry or investigation, there’s going to be different perspectives, different points of view, people trying to present what they believe applies to a certain set of circumstances. But I’ve also seen how important it is to get everything lined up and analyzed, and that is what we are doing, and we’re doing it as expeditiously as possible, and we’ll certainly keep you, the Congress, and the public informed.
MS. NULAND: Next one. Alexey Berezin from Khabar TV, please.
QUESTION: We know that a Strategic Partnership between the United States and Kazakhstan is going on, so my question is about the future, about the perspectives of this partnership. So please comment on this one.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Let me say how pleased we are that this Strategic Partnership has already produced results. We are working across a broad range of issues together, and I think it speaks, as the Minister said, to both countries’ desire to deepen and strengthen our relationship. We view Kazakhstan as not just a regional presence but a global leader. Certainly when it comes to nonproliferation, there are few countries that can match Kazakhstan’s experience and credibility when talking about nonproliferation. We are very grateful for the role that Kazakhstan is taking on with respect to Afghanistan, and I have been privileged, as you know, to visit Kazakhstan, both as First Lady and as Secretary, and to have seen the remarkable developments in such a short period of time in this new – this old nation but new, modern country.
So we think that our strategic partnership reflects where we are today and where we hope to be tomorrow. Minister?
FOREIGN MINISTER IDRISSOV: Madam Secretary was so eloquent, there is very little that I have to add. I fully subscribe to what Madam Secretary said. Let me highlight another aspect of our cooperation and our vision is to focus on the region. The region requires so much attention that we have to segment our efforts so that our efforts are successful. Our long-term goal, which is shared by our partners in the West, in the South, to the East, and to the Northeast – to turn our space into a genuine platform for cooperation, a genuine space for win-win scenarios.
So this is the goal we’ll be driving ourselves by, and we will continue to count on the very strong shoulder of our American friends.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Last one today. Special friend to Kazakhstan – (laughter) – Jill Dougherty of CNN.
QUESTION: (Inaudible), sir, it was very nice of you to say that.
Secretary Clinton, I wanted to ask you about Iran. Today, we are seeing some uprisings – the people obviously very much hurting, very frustrated about the fall of their currency. I know you’ve said many times you do not want to hurt them, but can you now, at this point, prevent that? And is the ultimate goal to bring down the economy, if that’s what it takes, in order to stop Iran’s nuclear program?
And in our tradition of just adding another question – but this just happened – the attack on the Turkish border. Turks killed and now there is serious mulling over by the Turks some type of unilateral military action. What’s your opinion on that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jill, first with respect to Iran, our goal has been and remains to persuade the Iranian regime to negotiate seriously in good faith with the international community over its nuclear program, to fulfill its obligations to the International Atomic Energy Agency and to the United Nations, and to do so expeditiously. We have always said that we had a dual-track approach to this, and one track was trying to put pressure on the Iranian Government to come to the negotiating table and to do just as I have described: to reach a peaceful resolution of the many legitimate questions that surround their nuclear program and ambitions.
I think the Iranian Government deserves responsibility for what is going on inside Iran. And that is who should be held accountable. And I think that they have made their own government decisions, having nothing to do with the sanctions that have had an impact on the economic conditions inside the country. And of course, the sanctions have had an impact as well, but those could be remedied in short order if the Iranian Government were willing to work with the P-5+1 and the rest of the international community in a sincere manner.
With respect to what happened on the Turkey-Syria border, we are outraged that the Syrians have been shooting across the border. We are very regretful about the loss of life that has occurred on the Turkish side. We are working with our Turkish friends. I will be speaking with the Foreign Minister later to discuss what the best way forward would be.
But this also comes down to a regime that is causing untold suffering to its own people, solely driven by their desire to stay in power, aided and abetted by nations like Iran that are standing firmly beside the Assad regime regardless of the damage, the loss of life, the violence that is happening both inside of Syria and now increasingly across Syria’s borders with their neighbors.
It’s a very, very dangerous situation. And all responsible nations need to band together to persuade the Assad regime to have a ceasefire, quit assaulting their own people, and begin the process of a political transition. So this is an issue that we are seized with and deeply concerned by and will continue working on.
Thank you all.
MS. NULAND: Thank you all very much.